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Valedictorian: Drake Aiden Hansen

Drake Hansen


Drake Hansen graduated from Provo High School and will receive a bachelor’s degree in English, with an emphasis in writing studies. Faculty members have praised Hansen’s broad knowledge and skillset, describing him as witty, inventive, lively, and a stunning writer. He has two upcoming publications in the English department’s journal Essais and wrote an honors thesis about racial dynamics in Lego figurines. During his time at UVU, he earned a place on the dean’s list for five semesters, received the honors and regents’ scholarships, participated in the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, and served as a technical editor for the English department’s publication Warp & Weave. Hansen says his favorite thing about the university is “the diversity of experience in the student population,” and he has enjoyed learning from those he has interacted with at UVU. He plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2022 to study linguistics or technical communication.

Outstanding Graduate - Behavioral Science: Ryanna Durrant

Ryanna Durrant

Outstanding Graduate

Behavioral Science

Ryanna Durrant is from Kamas, Utah, and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social work, with a minor in family science and a social impact scholar distinction. “As a first-generation student, college was very intimidating, but I feel like UVU has been a safe space for me to become who I am meant to be and find my passion for my future career,” she says. During her time at UVU, she earned a 4.0 cumulative GPA, served as the president of the Social Work Student Association (SWSA), created the SWSA mentorship program, interned with, and presented for an ethics training for the National Association of Social Work in April 2021. She earned a place on the dean’s list and received the Nadine Gilmore Scholarship, Max and Marjorie Wood Endowed Scholarship, First-Generation Scholarship, and Dean’s Merit Behavioral Science Scholarship. She is married to Trevor Durrant. She enjoys roller-skating, doing crossword puzzles, going to the movies, and spending time with family.

Outstanding Graduate - Communication: Kadee Jo Jones

Kadee Jo Jones

Outstanding Graduate


Kadee Jo Jones of Lehi, Utah, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication, with an emphasis in public relations. She has completed three internships through UVU, including a presidential internship for VP Cameron Martin in University Relations, a legislative internship with Representative Jefferson Moss, and a public relations internship. She was crowned Miss UVU 2020 and launched the Wolverine Writing Campaign. Jones participated in the Honors Program, served as the only female member of UVU’s venture capital fund, implemented engagement opportunities for businesses as an ambassador to the UVU Foundation Board, and participated in the 2020 International PRSSA Conference. Jones says her favorite thing about UVU is its culture of student success: “I have gotten to see how gritty and resilient UVU students are, and it is incredibly inspiring.” In the future, she hopes to publish a children’s book, run for public office, and create a personal branding consulting business.

Outstanding Graduate - English & Literature: Madeline McBeth

Madeline McBeth

Outstanding Graduate

English & Literature

Madeline McBeth is from Gilbert, Arizona, and will graduate summa cum laude from UVU with a bachelor’s degree in English, with an emphasis in literary studies. She served as the editor in chief of Touchstones and vice president of the College Project for the UVU chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. She has nearly four years of copywriting experience at various companies and marketing agencies, including Workfront, Big Leap, and Loveland Innovations. “The UVU environment is one that enriches and empowers,” she says. “This I attribute to its stewards — the people and professors who took me in and helped me grow.” As an aspiring thespian, McBeth has played lead roles in several local productions, including Blithe Spirit, Macbeth, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. She is a lover of all things outdoors, a cinephile, musician, pickle ball enthusiast, and firm believer in the restorative power of a great burger and fries. She wishes to thank her parents, five siblings, husband, and professors, who have all helped her accomplish this feat.

Outstanding Graduate - History & Political Science and Integrated Studies: Samuel Elzinga

Samuel Elzinga

Outstanding Graduate

History & Political Science and Integrated Studies

A graduate of Erie High School in Colorado, Samuel Elzinga will graduate from UVU with a bachelor’s degree in political science, with an emphasis in world politics. He will also receive a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies, with emphases in national security studies and Russian studies. Elzinga has completed many internships with prestigious organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, Wikistrat, and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. He has also completed congressional internships with Chris Stewart and Debbie Lesko. In 2018, he became one of the youngest people ever to address a body of the United Nations when he served as a representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and the Utah International Mountain Forum. He appreciates UVU’s focus on engaged learning, which has provided “a plethora of opportunities to grow both academically and professionally.” In the future, he hopes to pursue a doctorate in public policy and become an analyst for the federal government.

Outstanding Graduate - Languages & Cultures: Tanner E. Vance

Tanner E. Vance

Outstanding Graduate

Languages & Cultures

From Lynnwood, Washington, and Smithfield, Utah, Tanner E. Vance will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Studies, with an interpreting emphasis. He is the co-founder and student program coordinator of UVU@GU, a weeklong domestic multicultural experience in which students can be immersed in Deaf culture at Gallaudet University. He served as editor in chief of Touchstones, president and advisory president of the ASL Club, and treasurer of the Utah Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Vance is currently employed as a full-time educational interpreter, and he has earned a novice interpreter certification in the state of Utah and partial professional certification on the national level. He completed an honors thesis examining the parallel oppression of members of the Deaf community and LGBTQ+ individuals. His favorite aspect of UVU is the faculty and staff’s student-oriented philosophy. “At UVU, it feels like anything is possible,” he says. He enjoys taking photos, hiking, and reading in his leisure time.

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Outstanding Graduate - Philosophy & Humanities: Joshua Black

Joshua Black

Outstanding Graduate

Philosophy & Humanities

Joshua Black of Modesto, California, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, with a minor in environmental studies, and an associate degree in humanities and social sciences. In 2012, he received an associate degree in graphic design, with a focus in branding, from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California. He has professional experience in various fields, including education, entertainment, customer service, and manufacturing. “I love learning, and the knowledge that I’ve gained here at UVU has definitely changed the course of my life,” he says. “UVU has made me want to be a better person by helping me develop the skills that make me feel like I can accomplish anything.” Black wishes to thank his family, whose compassion and support drive him to help others and without whom he could not have completed his degree. In the future, he is interested in working toward climate health and environmental justice by entering a career in law, policy, or a non-profit organization.

Outstanding Graduate - MSW: Ricardo Rodriguez Placeholder

Ricardo Rodriguez

Outstanding Graduate


Ricardo Israel Rodriguez was born in Mexico City and came to the United States as a child with his family, seeking a better life and greater opportunities. He graduated from Provo High School in 1995 and will receive a Master of Social Work this year from Utah Valley University. His family played an integral role in his education, encouraging him from a young age to develop a strong work ethic and always seek learning. He feels that his master’s program has fundamentally changed the way in which he views the world and equipped him with the tools and skills necessary to make a difference in the community. “The best part of attending UVU has been the balanced approach of example and experience,” he says. Rodriguez attributes all of his academic success to the support and sacrifices of his wife and children. In his spare time, he loves to cook, design food experiences, spend time with family, go on vocations, and participate in the community.

Outstanding Graduate - MFT: Cyndy Garrison Placeholder

Cyndy Garrison

Outstanding Graduate


Cindy Garrison of Greenwood Village, Colorado, earned a bachelor’s degree in family science with a gerontology certificate from Brigham Young University. After returning to the world of academia following a 20-year hiatus as a stay-at-home mom, she will receive a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy from UVU. During her time in the program, she helped to provide free therapy sessions to seven nominated COVID-19 nurses from Intermountain Medical Center. She also served as a family liaison and children’s class leader with the UVU Stronger Families Project. She plans to continue working at Utah Family Therapy in the Intensive Outpatient Program and with individual clients after graduation. Garrison says the best part of attending UVU has been the bond between her cohort: “I will leave UVU with a solid network of professional colleagues, all of whom I consider friends.” She has been married to Jim Garrison for 26 years and is the mother of four children: Thomas, Alex, Sam, and Joey.